Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Eden - a film in which the garage music speaks louder & longer than the characters (QFT 24-30 July)

Eden is a French tribute to the Paris garage music scene. Spread over a narrative arc of nearly 20 years, Mia Hansen-Løve’s film follows wannabe DJ Paul Vallée (played by Félix de Givry) as he trips his way through underground club nights with his French Touch.

Paul and the less-committed cartoonist Cyril (Roman Kolinka) form Cheers, “the garage duo that everyone’s talking about”, while friends Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (Arnaud Azoulay) and Thomas Bangalter (Vincent Lacoste) establish Daft Punk.

Every fifteen minutes or so Eden jumps forward another two or three years. Duos don’t last forever, and not everyone in the tight-knit posse survives the pace. The music allows Paul to climb the steps up to DJ booths in New York before descending back to Paris as he snorts his way in and out of love with Louise (Pauline Etienne) and eventually lands back in his mother’s apartment with debts, drugs and the knowledge that his dream is dying, if not dead.

The minimal script and unhurried plot let the music speak louder and longer than any of the characters. At least half of Eden’s scenes are based in clubs, and for a film whose soundtrack turned into a rights licensing nightmare that delayed production for years, the sound level in the cinema is pleasant and not at all overpowering. While surround sound is used effectively during an airport scene, the music is kept front and centre, and your heart beat won’t rise along with the beats per minute on-screen.

For some, the sounds and story of Eden will bring back strong memories. I should confess that I’m firmly in the category where ‘garage’ is the home of step ladders and old paint pots, so the significance of the French music scene was lost on me. In fact, the film brought back awful memories of spending a night, some 20 years ago, leaning against the wall in the Hollywood nightclub in Ipswich.

Over two hours, the clipboards holding club guest lists turn into iPads, record decks become more modern and are eventually joined by Mac laptops and female DJs, Francs are replaced with Euros, and the crowds queuing up to hear Cheers dwindle while austerity ratchets up the banks’ discomfort with debt and the cost of a cocaine-fuelled lifestyle. There’s a very human story behind the electronic music.

Eden rolls from exhilaration to depression as Paul faces up to tough choices about his passions and creativity. If you know your techno from your electro and your modern disco, then head down to the Queens Film Theatre to catch a screening of Eden between Friday 24 and Thursday 30 July.

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